So says Artistic Director for the Montreal Opera, Michel Beaulac. Though he has been with the company for over 20 years, Beaulac is clearly still as passionate about his art as he was two decades ago.
“La Traviata, beyond the story itself, is about love, the discovery of love when you least expect it, the hopes of that love’s fulfillment and the tragic ending.”
Set to open September 15, Montreal will boast four performances of one of the greatest operas ever.
Written in the 1850s by Giuseppe Verdi with libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, the opera was based off the novel La dame aux Camélias by Alexandre Dumas. It is set in Paris in the 1700s and follows the story of a beautiful courtesan with a delicate constitution, Violetta, who sacrifices her own happiness for the man she loves. Moulin Rouge, anyone?
Within the first act of the opera, Violetta has been convinced to turn away from a life of prostitution by her newfound lover, Alfredo, a young nobleman. They move to the country together and seem to leave all traces of scandal behind them, until concerns are raised by his family who do not approve of the match.
Before long, Alfredo’s father goes to Violetta and begs her to break off the romance before her ruined reputation can threaten marriage prospects of Alfredo’s young sister. Overcome with grief and guilt, Violetta agrees to the plan. She heads for Paris that very day, leaving a farewell note for Alfredo. When he receives it, he becomes angry and consumed with jealousy, imagining that she has left him for her former lover, the Count. After that, well, we won’t spoil the ending here.
The greatest challenge of the production, according to Beaulac, was the choice of the show itself, as it is one of the most performed and famous operas in the world.
“The challenge is finding the level of artist that will give the company the authority to perform such a show,” he said. This year, Beaulac said he feels confident that they have found just such talent.
The female lead, Myrtò Papatanasiu, who plays the role of Violetta, is Greek and made her North American debut only a short time ago. Beaulac said she has often been compared to Maria Callas, an American-born Greek singer who is widely considered one of the most renowned voices of the 20th century.
According to Beaulac, it is Papatanasiu’s “stage intensity and presence” that makes her such a “great artist.”
The leading man, Roberto De Biasio is described by Beaulac as “an elegant man, both physically and musically. He is one of the best tenors I’ve heard in all my life.”
Another point worth noting is that the version they have chosen to do is not the traditional one. The opera has been transposed to take place around the same time period as that of the Titanic. Beaulac said that this early 20th century take on the famous story promises to be visually very stately and grandiose.
Beaulac has high hopes for the production, saying that “audiences will have the chance to hear a Traviata which is in line with what Verdi really intended in the first place.”
Though not the stereotypical pastime of the average University or high school student, Beaulac said that whenever the company opens up dress rehearsals to students, “they all go crazy over opera.”
“It is a type of entertainment that young people can really relate to,” he said. “It’s the storytelling, it’s surreal, and it has an edge stylistically.”
For Beaulac, it’s just another day at the opera, but for audiences, he has this to say: “One must allow oneself the privilege of seeing an opera at least once. It’s addictive.”
The show runs September 15, 18, 20, and 22. Student tickets can be as low as $25, and can be purchased online or in person at 260 Blvd. de Maisonneuve W.